The Joy of Home Winemaking

Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
August 1998

Lettuce Prey, August 8

Balance of the Universe, August 25

Squirrelly Story, August 31

Title of the Month: The Fate of the Male Germ Cell

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Lettuce Prey
Saturday, August 8

Our Block Club had a potluck on National Night Out. A good time seemed to be had by all, except, perhaps, the 'trouble' house, which was closed up tight. We actually did report a crime, although we didn't deter it. Some guy drove past the barriers right into the party area (the block was closed off), drunk as a skunk. No one was hurt. He was going slowly. We all yelled at him, took his license number and called it in on the Block Club cell phone. Heard a siren not long after.

The potluck ranged from chili-mac, spaghetti, and enchiladas, to exquisite fresh tomato slices layered with homemade pesto and mozzarella. We adults cheerfully scarfed up the tomatoes.

The semi-feral street kids (they have houses to sleep in but that's about all you can say) were ready for a free meal and the face painting, but they weren't about to eat anything they couldn't readily identify. For a few of them, the orange jello with fruit in it was a little too exotic.

One girl saw me eating a leaf lettuce salad and blurted out : "Why you eating leaves?" I told her it was lettuce. She clearly recognized the word, but not the form. In disgust, she watched me eat another piece. "I don't eat no leaves!" she exclaimed, evidently convinced I was eating leaves of the trees or bushes. She returned to the chili-mac.

The poor child had never seen a green salad before, as far as I could tell. She'd probably had shredded lettuce on tacos or hamburgers, but whole raw leaves—no way!!

I thought of becoming an evangelist and holding a green salad workshop at the park or maybe going from door to door, leaving a brochure and a head of lettuce behind, but I think it would be a lost cause. Do these children even recognize whole vegetables when they see them? Don't they get them in school lunches? I know a lot of them subsist on potato chips in the summer because I pick up the empty packets out of my garden.

It reminded me of the time back in the early seventies when I was a title 13 tutor at an elementary school in Richmond, California. Many of the children were from the inner city. We got to the 'wh' words: why, when, what, wheat—-words like that. They didn't know what wheat was. "Oh, you know," I said blithely, " . . . as in wheat bread." No, they didn't know.

So the next day I brought in wheat and flour, and talked them through the steps of baking but I don't think they believed me. They didn't believe me about where milk came from, either. They knew it came from cows but the idea that it came out of the udder seemed pretty disgusting to them. It might well have put them off milk. I didn't even attempt to explain how hens lay eggs.

We have a lot to answer for in education in this country.

Yesterday was my fiftieth birthday. I took the day off and friend and I went up to a state park for some gentle hiking and communing with nature. It wasn't too hot and we had the park pretty much to ourselves. It was good to be amongst the trees. We attempted to float a few flowers in the St. Croix river in memory of some friends who have passed; Laura, Ardis, Irene, my mother, but they landed further down the cliff rather than in the water. Not as romantic, but it was at least a gesture. One can only try.

Hope all is well out there, over there, wherever you all are. Take good care of yourselves.


Balance of the Universe
Tuesday, August 25

We are having a beautiful stretch of weather here in the last few days—sunny, not too humid, with a nice breeze. I've been harvesting tomatoes, beans, zucchini, a few cucumbers and basil.

I remember last winter putting squash seeds out for the squirrels on the front porch. As a result, we have a fine strong winter squash vine trying to take over the front walk. It has what appear to be acorn squash on it, plus magnificent leaves and huge yellow blossoms, which the bees adore. If I had planted this on purpose it would have gotten squash borers and died, of course. Is this repayment for feeding squirrels? I wonder.

This morning I went to the dentist to get some minor work done. Didn't even need Novocain, which was great. Got out of there in 15 minutes. Amazing.

However, on the way home a bee flew into the car and landed on my face near my glasses. If it hadn't been so close to my eyes I'd have pulled off to the side and removed it, but instead I plucked it off right away and it got me. Never found the stinger, or the critter, so maybe it was a wasp, or maybe it had just started to sting when I grabbed it, but yow!

So I got home and put meat tenderizer on my face, and although it still hurts, it's not very swollen.

Was the Universe paying me back for painless dentistry? Was it some kind of nefarious Mother Nature plot, or was it merely an accident? Hmmmm?

Just to make sure, when I was pruning some bushes at noon, I carefully left the web of the orb spider I found, for she was clutching her egg sack to her spidery bosom and looking very put upon. So now I figure I'm back on the credit side, at least.

Happy end of summer to you all, and may your harvest, whatever it may be, be bountiful. And be nice to Mother Nature.


Squirrelly Story
Monday, August 31

Saturday my neighbor pointed out the little silver tails flashing up in the attic eaves on our three-story house. Ah, nuts! Baby squirrels in the attic!

She commented that they had been crying a lot. It dawned on me that the female squirrel who comes by once or twice a day for peanuts hadn't come by in a while. I watched for her, but didn't see her.

The babies were too high up and far out (man) to reach.

The next day I went out to the back and there on the walk was a little baby squirrel, looking stunned. The boy next door peeked over at it, saying he had just found a dead one on his side of the fence.

It sounds cruel, but I hoped this one would soon follow. I got a cloth and carefully picked it up. Miraculously, it seemed unhurt. I had never seen a baby squirrel close up before. They are disgustingly cute (no, just disgusting, says Jeanne G. as she reads this), with outsized feet and that funny silver tail.

Gloomily I brought it inside, muttering sarcastic thanks to Mother Nature.

On the St. Paul campus we have a Wildlife Rehab place but I was certain it wasn't open on Sunday (I was wrong). Plus there had been a rumor they were going to be closed down by the U. Plus the campus is pretty much closed down on State Fair weekends because of the crowds. The fairgrounds are right next to the Ag Campus, leftover from the days when this was all waaaay out in the country. Exciting, but hecky-darn for parking during the run of the Fair.

I made a cage out of a coffee can with some screening over the top, fastened by the plastic rim of the can cover. I had cut out the middle, of course. Put in some clean rags, put in the squirrel, and let it rest while I figured out what and how to feed it. It was almost certainly dehydrated and in shock.

Best I could come up with was half and half diluted with water with a pinch of sugar, heated in the microwave and administered by the cc with a syringe.

It worked. The squirrel slept a lot, but every couple of hours I'd get another cc down it. Then it curled up into a sweet little ball and went back to sleep. It even pooped, a good sign. Last night I slept on the couch so I'd be good and restless and could feed it.

The cats ignored it until it woke up this morning and squoke. Nelly was jealous that it was getting her cream, but that was it.

Today I took it into the Rehab place, an arduous task. The roads are choked with cars getting into the Fair, and I was afraid the bus would be too much for the little guy. So I parked as close as possible and hiked in.

They think the squirrel will be just fine, liked the cage I improvised, the fact that I knew how to get liquids in, and the check I gave them. I was concerned that he might not have enough time to learn to be a squirrel before winter, but they think he does. Then they wanted me to be a volunteer.

Well, I don't know. They want a year commitment and I don't know if I can do that. But I have to admit that I enjoyed taking care of it. I'm also very grateful the place exists. Most of my wildlife rehab experiences consist of evicting wasps, bees, and spiders from the house. Oh, and stuffing herring down grebes during an oil spill in the Bay Area. Almost forgot that, in spite of the scars (grebes have no sense of gratitude).

So we probably don't have to worry about squirrels in the attic for a while, but winter is a comin', and squirrels hate to waste a good hole. It's a bit small, but they'll fix that, if we don't. Squirrels don't fight entropy, they are entropy. But cute entropy.



Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
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Copyright 1998 by Terry A. Garey.